Tagged: gratitude

sugar, sugar, dOes nOt a sweet life make – Or – it’s nOt abOut the latte

 

imageI alone am responsible for the sweetness in my life.”

– Louise Hay,  You Can Heal Your Life


Early on in this valley fever journey, I heard from several sources that it was important to either cut back or remove sugar from my diet. You see, the fungus, among other things, feeds on sugar. As if this disease wasn’t bad enough, it was now going to take one of my favorite “foods” away from me, too! As I continued to search for ways to get better, a very dear friend of mine pulled the above Louise Hay book off her shelf and read a few affirmations. The one above really caught my eye – how could I not pay attention to the possibility that I, not others, control the sweetness in my life?

 

Sugar has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a child, it came in many forms, and was given as reward, and withdrawn as punishment. We celebrated with it, soothed ourselves with it, coveted it, yearned for it, and ate it every chance we got.

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My Dad reveled in sugar as much as us kids. Every night before bed, he would dish himself a bowl of vanilla ice cream, cover it in Hershey’s chocolate, and eat it with a handful of saltine crackers. Let me tell you, I learned from the best!

It wasn’t until 1975, when my Dad read the book, Sugar Blues by William Dufty, that his, and my, relationship with sugar changed forever. I could no longer indulge my desires blindly. Now my cravings and late night ice cream and M&M binges came with guilt and remorse. My childlike wonder and belief that a sweet and happy life could be bought and consumed, was shattered. image

But if I’m being totally honest, I questioned the value of those empty calories pretty early on, and wondered why they left me feeling so desperate and alone. The wonderful sugar high was (and still is) so damn temporary. No matter what form, it never really fills me up – not with the right things anyway. Over the 56-years that I have been on the planet, I have tried many times to remove sugar from my diet – more accurately, from my life. It feels like it is part of the very fabric of my being, and that without it I will die.

Welcome Valley Fever as my teacher once again!

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It took me a while, but I finally accepted the challenge of exploring my relationship with food and sugar as a way to create my new healthy life. As with all important choices, it was not something I took on lightly, or without help. Thank you to:

  • my kind and gifted acupuncturist, Mary Papa,
  • my very wise therapist, Carolyn Settle
  • my inspiring online health coach, Lacy Young, and
  • the dedicated and life-changing Geneen Roth, author of several books, including, When Food Is Love, and Women, Food and God.

Each one of these loving and brilliant women have taught me about loving my body, embracing my nature, and what it really means to have and be enough. I am still hugely in process with all of this, and will continue to be dedicated to a life filled with love, honesty and beauty.

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Geneen Roth’s Eating Guidelines – simple, but not easy, powerful and centering, exciting and scary, loving and true.

By beginning to pay attention to what feeds me, I am learning what really makes my life sweet –

  • laughter and smiles,
  • kisses and hugs,
  • big, white puffy clouds against a brilliant blue sky,
  • making art,
  • dancing,
  • quiet dinners,
  • hearing thunder,
  • playing golf, and
  • being kind, brave, gentle and true.

This is just the beginning of My Sweet Life list. It contains the people and things that truly feed me and could never be replaced with ice cream, cookies or even mint M&M’s! Notice, I didn’t say decaf vanilla lattes💟‼️

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the baristas and staff at my local Starbucks, have been a part of my healing team. They send me loving messages and drawings on my coffee cups, and are genuinely concerned about my well-being. And, to me it seems, all that love and joy and sweetness gets poured into my latte, and warms and heals me as I drink it. That is just how good it tastes to me.

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This image is part of the latest piece of art I made for my friends at Starbucks. Nolan, who has now moved to Flagstaff, is the Snoopy artist. Makes you smile, right?!❤️

For now, I’m still enjoying my latte every couple of days, and will continue to explore what really brings me sweetness and joy. As I write this, I am seeing all the beautiful faces of the people in my life who love me, who have helped me heal and grow, and who, without them, I would not be here. Is it really possible that it isn’t about the lattes after all?

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One more thing I want to add to My Sweet Life list, is our home remodeling project. I have enjoyed sharing ideas with my husband, and have learned that all out trusting him with decisions brings me great joy and makes me smile. My appreciation and admiration for him just keeps growing❤️. I have loved saying what is really important to me, being heard, and then trusting enough to let go of the outcome.

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Walls have been painted and the beautiful cabinets are going in. So very exciting to create something together❤️‼️

Here’s wishing you a beautiful and sweet summer. And, remember…

BE GENTLE. BE BRAVE. BE TRUE.

lOve, vickiO

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lOve, trust and demOlition

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For most of April and May, as my energy permitted, I was slowly packing up our home, one drawer, one closet, one cabinet at a time. During the last week of May, my husband moved every box, bag and piece of furniture into either our garage or to a generous neighbors garage. We then moved ourselves and our essentials into our close friends house, just a block away, to stay for the next 2 months.

Major 8-week remodel here we come!!

We have lived in our beautiful condo full time for 2 1/2 years – the same amount of time that I have been dealing with Valley Fever. It has been a place of cOmfOrt, lOve and recOvery, and I’ve been grateful every day that we live in such a beautiful place.

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Even though we would like a little bit more space (especially for my ever growing art studio needs : ) we love our location, so we decided to stay and do a few upgrades. Seriously, could we really leave our birds eye view of our beautiful fountain? I don’t think so❤️‼️

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This major type of remodel (taking down walls, building showers, building a new kitchen, replacing all flooring, and painting almost every surface) is new to me. The closest I have come to this size of a job is watching the Property Brothers on the HGTV channel, and it’s easy to say – I am nO expert! Luckily my husband and our contractor, Tony, are!

The planning and decision making has been fun, challenging and eye-opening. It helped to have Tom Olson, a renowned architect who studied and worked directly with Frank Lloyd Wright, and a highly gifted designer and textile artist, Merle Sykora, walking us through the process. (They are the team that designed and built the house we lived in for 24 years in Minnesota!)

Needless to say, packing and moving was just downright stressful. John had to “pull me off the ledge” a few times, and as my therapist said, “You get 10 extra crazy points during a remodel.” Talk about having to practice letting go of the outcome!

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BOth jOhn and I, and the rest Of the team, have needed all three!

I thought the stress level would just continue to increase as the work began. My mind was working overtime scaring me with thoughts like – “What horrible things are we going to find? What if the existing structure isn’t sound? What if we find bugs and rats and rot, Oh my!?” (Yes, I have earned every one of those extra crazy points!)

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pOst mOve, pre-demOlitiOn

Surprisingly, instead of feeling more anxious and stressed out, I am actually enjoying the demolition process. I’m loving seeing our space “stripped down to the studs.” There is something refreshing and comforting to see what is underneath – to see what the foundation is made of – to see the possibilities. I even got to briefly swing a hammer and knock a towel bar off the wall! Thank you, Tony!

After one week of demOlitiOn, the place looks like this:

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There is something very familiar and inspiring about this process. It reminds me why I have been dedicated to uncovering, recovering, and healing old beliefs and wounds for most of my adult life. Why would I want to try and build a healthier, stronger “sOul hOuse” on top of a structure that is rotting, infested or outdated?  The answer is, I wouldn’t! As hard as it is to see the truth sometimes, it is the only way to a healthier, happier and more creative life.

So, it is refreshing to see the places where our home is strong, and where it is weak. Once it is seen it can fixed, enhanced and made new! This has brought me a level of comfort I wasn’t even aware that I was needing, and encourages me to continue doing my work of healing and recovery. It may not be pretty, but it is worth it!

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Is this a man who looks like he knows what he’s doing? Absolutely! If you are in need of a great contractor, Tony Timonte can be found HERE!

Tony and our gutted kitchen.

Tony and our gutted kitchen.

I am excited to see the outcome of our remodeling project, but no longer want to hurry through the demOlitiOn process. I’m continuing to learn the value of each small step and the importance of trusting myself to make good decisions with the help from a hand-picked team of experts – for home remodeling and my health!

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More updates next month! Until then,

Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

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chOices, recOvery, and art

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One of my biggest fears in life is to be thought of as selfish. Where I come from, it is one of the most serious of “sins”. And sins are those terrible black marks on your soul that stop you from getting into heaven. Pretty heavy stuff for a child to deal with and make sense of. (Not that this is even possible, mind you.)

Over the years, as I’ve slowly recovered from a childhood filled with fear, unrealistic expectations, alcoholism and neglect, the issue of self-care has repeatedly been the focus. But how do I truly take care of myself without being a sinner? How do I take responsibility for myself first, without adding more of those ugly marks on my soul?

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The truth is, my wounded child self and my soul have been dying for my attention for many years. The more recovery I have, the more I’m finding that codependency and addiction are driven by the deep pain of despair that we feel when we stop listening to the needs, wants and desires of our beautiful and authentic hearts. So how do I reconcile the message of “total self-sacrifice is of highest importance” with my knowing that “self-care and self-responsibility” is the healthier, more balanced way to live? Is it time to give up the promise of heaven?

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Addiction and codependency run rampant in my family tree. It’s like Dutch elm disease, but worse. These two demons are a very toxic and powerful tag team. They truly suck the life out of everyone and everything. One demon speaks of self-importance, manipulation and an indulgent ego, while the other speaks of total self-sacrifice and “bleeding out” for others. I bounced back and forth between those two places many times in my life, until I realized there was no peace (for myself or the people I love) in either place.

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Over the past 2 1/2 years, as I had more time to go inward and listen, I began to hear some profound (and sometimes scary) truths:

  • I am solely responsible for my happiness. (Not my husband, not my sisters, not my parents, not my friends, and no, not even Jesus.) Good riddance codependency! (I will be practicing this for the rest of my life.)
  • It is my job to choose myself. It’s nice to be chosen by others, but the real healing happens when I choose myself. (Who knew?)
  • Help is available, but it is up to me to ask for it. (Still working on this ; )
  • There is no such thing as perfection. (Excuse me!?) Now, after many, many lessons, given the choice between perfection and love, I chose lOve, hands down, every time! (Perfection is a very painful standard to hold yourself, and love ones, to. And there is truly nO peace in it. Trust me, I tried. My dear husband has been my greatest and most patient teacher on this one. Thank you, Honey!)
  • The Reader’s Digest was right – laughter is the best medicine:
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this made me laugh Out lOud!

And…

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I knOw, right?

So, to answer my own question – yes, it is time for me to give up the promise of heaven. I know this choice is not for everyone, and I’m really ok with that. Coming to this conclusion, I am feeling relief and a deep sense of happiness and peace. The unbearable pressure has been lifted. I will continue to do my best by showing up, loving deeply and letting go. Because another of my truths is:

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I am grateful beyond words for my art – the process, the lessons, my teachers and the outcome. My creative artist self is so darn happy, and I am so grateful that I have had this time to explore my own heart and my own truths. I highly recommend it! Thanks so much for all your lOve and encouragement. Want to be an artist?

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lOve this!

SO, as Batman says…

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 Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

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check Out mOre new vickiO art HERE!

hOly stress test, Batman, what’s the answer nOw?

About a year ago, I wrote my forth blog post, titled hOly rOadrunner, Batman, it is valley fever! At that time, it was a huge relief to finally be able to name why I had been so sick for over a year, and to begin healing. Now, another year later, Batman doesn’t think it’s valley fever anymore, and I am once again searching for an answer.

Every doctor I have seen has told me that a negative Valley Fever blood test doesn’t rule it out. Why now does Dr. Galgianni (aka Batman) say that he doesn’t think I have VF because my blood tests have all been negative???

Has the Joker finally taken over Gotham City?

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In an effort to get a definitive diagnoses, my husband and I decided it was best to make an appointment at the Mayo Clinic here in Arizona. Even though it is out of our insurance network, we thought if anyone could help us, the doctors there could. So in early March, with high hopes and two years worth of test results in hand, we headed to the Mayo Clinic.

My appointment was with Dr. Doug Peterson, and as we were called in, we were told he liked to initially see the patient alone. The nurse said she would bring John in later. All too quickly I override my alarm bells, and agree to going in alone. Have I mentioned I’m a slow learner?

I am a huge believer in having an advocate with you at all times when dealing with doctors, but this is the Mayo Clinic, and they know best, right?! WRONG! Fifteen minutes into the appointment I ask to have my husband join us. The doctor talked me out of it by saying he just wants to get to know me. He worried that John might talk too much and take over the appointment. Even though none of that is true, I again override my needs and agree with the doctor. (Okay, I’m a slow learner AND a delayed reactor.)

I’m not saying Dr. Peterson wasn’t smart, he was just also arrogant, controlling and selfish.

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The goal of going to the Mayo was to rule out any serious conditions that we might have missed over the last two years. So last week, I  had a nuclear stress test and an echocardiogram to make sure my symptoms were not being caused by coronary artery disease. My father died of a massive heart attack at the age of 64, (ack! I’m less than 10 years from that age!) and I sure don’t want to take my heart health for granted.

all hOOked up and ready fOr the treadmill!

all hOOked up and ready fOr the treadmill!

20140324-222836.jpg After secretly hoping they would find something that would explain the symptoms I have had over the last 25 months, I am very happy to report that all heart tests, breathing tests and blood work are normal!

All catastrophic conditions have been ruled out, and that truly is a very good thing! In this moment, I am extremely grateful for my body and love that I am still in pretty good shape! image

With the knowledge that I am dealing with a chronic condition, and not something that is going to cause me to drop dead in my tracks, I next went to my acupuncturist, Mary Papa. She is an amazingly gifted practitioner and healer, and has helped me tremendously over the last 18 months. I knew she could help clear the radioactive medicine from my body, and continue to support me in moving forward with love, gratitude and wisdom.

yes, that is my ear. pretty cOOl, huh?!

yes, that is my ear. pretty cOOl, huh?!

So in an instant of clarity, with needles still in my ear, I realized that although I still really like Batman, I don’t need him to save me! I am, after all, Catwoman! Catwoman, if you remember, is very resourceful, agile, empathic and extremely skilled at evading capture. So now that I have remembered who I am, I will NOT allow this illness, Batman, or any doctor for that matter, to stop me from believing in myself or being who I really am! There! I said it.

sexy, strOng wOman with attitude❤️

sexy, strOng wOman with attitude❤️

As I move forward, I have recommitted to knowing and listening to myself like never before. The truth is, I know a lot about myself, what I need, and who to trust. I just need to get better at hearing and listening to my wise inner voice when she says, “That’s not going to work for me.” When I am able to say those words in the moment I need to, I will be dancing in the street! Keep an eye out for me!

After experiencing a very specific set of symptoms over the last 26 months, extensively researching Valley Fever and other chronic fatigue conditions, and ruling out all acute conditions, I am convinced I have been dealing with VF all along. Just like viral illnesses that become chronic fatigue conditions, I believe VF can become a chronic fatigue type illness, too. Just because Western medicine doesn’t know what to do with those of us with these conditions, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. I will continue to educate, research and advocate for Valley Fever patients and their families, as it is just the right thing to do.

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I will leave you with a few images of our beautiful desert blooms and fountain, and a couple new vickiO creations inspired by the interesting and amazing path I find myself on.

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Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

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enOugh, already! (wOty 2014)

hellO lOvely and creative sOuls!

As the new year marches On, I hOpe yOu are happy, safe, warm and healthy. Here in the Southwest, I can say I have 3 out of four of those going for me, and I’m feeling very grateful for every sunshiny day that comes our way!

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Last December, I decided to choose a “wOrd Of the year” (wOty) to help me stay focused, creative and engaged with life.  With that in mind, if you haven’t guessed already, my 2014 wOty is enOugh. 

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Depending on how it is used, enOugh can mean:

  • As much as required,
  • adequately,
  • fairly, or
  • impatient desire.

I chose to begin my exploration by asking some tough questions. In our culture, families and churches, we are bombarded with the message that enough is never enough, so it was (and still is) a bit rattling to ask –

Is there enough? Do I have enough? Am I enough?

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If that wasn’t scary enOugh, my health began deteriorating in early January. Much to my dismay, no matter what I did or didn’t do, the extreme fatigue, headaches and nausea came flooding back. It left me screaming, enOugh, already! How much more of this can I take? Will it ever end? A new (very loud) question now arose –

When is enough, enough? 

As the second week of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics begin, I am so struck by the depth and rawness of the personal stories behind the Games. The years and years of hard work, the sacrifices, loss, injuries and disappointments the athletes and their families experience take my breath away. The stories are made even more poignant when the outcome is not the gold medal, or for many athletes, including the Americans at these games, no medal at all.

The truth is, none of us make it through this life without heartbreak and gut-wrenching loss. And even though we don’t win any medals for choosing to survive and carry on, we sure do deserve them. Life leaves many of us, including the amazing and gifted Olympians, asking, “Am I enough“? And isn’t that heartbreaking enOugh, knowing how hard each one of us has worked to live a good life and earn our “gold medals”?

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So, as I make plans to get myself into the Mayo Clinic for a consultation to finally determine what I’m battling, I am learning that:

  • I am strong enOugh to keep going.
  • I am strong enOugh to keep asking the hard questions.
  • I am brave enOugh to hear the answers.
  • Life is hard enOugh without trying to prove I am enOugh.
  • I’m the only one who has to believe I am enOugh.
  • There is enOugh love for all of us.

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May you feel the love that surrounds you,

and know that you are truly enough.

Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.

lOve, vickiO

This post is dedicated to John Berg, an amazing and loving man, who inspired me to be a better person and enjoy life as it comes. Thank you for loving me and showing me there is always enough. You will be missed but never forgotten. 

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thank yOu and gOOdbye 2013

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I lOve taking the time to look back at the year that is ending and claim all the lessons learned, the wisdom gained, and honor all the lOve that came my way.  It helps to see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, and how I might do things differently in the coming year. And last but not least, this process helps me to look for the gifts in the ups and downs, and be grateful for it all.

SO, let’s get started!

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thank yOu, 2013

Is it possible that Valley Fever is one of the best things to happen to me? I know this is a very radical thought, but the list of gifts it has brought me just keeps growing and growing.

It is actually scary to write them all down, but here goes. Dealing with Valley Fever has brought me:

  • Increased self-acceptance (kicking and screaming all the way : )
  • Greater capacity for compassion
  • A stronger and closer connection with my husband, John (lOve, lOve, lOve this man!)
jOhnnyO

jOhnnyO

  • An opening to my creative, loving and funny artist self
  • An awareness and experience of how loved I am (priceless)
  • Greater love and appreciation of my amazing friends and family (I am truly one lucky girl!)
  • Greater appreciation for my physical body
  • Lessons in how to say yes when help is offered (ok, I’m still working on this one ; )
  • Lessons in how to say no when I need to
  • Continued learning of the real meaning and value of self-care
  • Healthier boundaries (who doesn’t need this?)
  • A new and improved golf swing (visualization really does work!)
  • Awareness and appreciation of my Brave Girl self
  • Patience, patience and more patience
  • A slower paced life – slOw dOwn, be happy : )
  • Time to heal some old wounds

How can I not be grateful for Valley Fever?

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the mOre and less Of 2013:

  • More greens, less sugar (my body says thank you)
  • More organic, less pesticides (the earth and my body say thank you)
  • More water, less soda (my cells say thank you)
Organic vegetables frOm my friend Karla's garden in MinnesOta

beautiful Organic vegetables frOm my friend Karla’s MinnesOta garden

  • More love, less criticism
  • More art, less TV (I still have my favorite shows that I don’t miss!)
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Scandal – fOr thOse few whO aren’t watching it!

  • More boundaries, less co-dependency
  • More acceptance, less judgement
  • More acupuncture, less drugs
  • More feeling, less numbing
  • More listening, less talking
  • More ease, less pushing
  • More walking, less fatigue (yay!)
  • More laughter, less despair
  • More play, less perfection
 “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is a pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough – that we should try again.”
– Julia Cameron

A few things that made me laugh in 2013:

“You’re thinking I’m one of those wise-ass California vegetarians who is going to tell you that eating a few strips of bacon is bad for your health. I’m not. I say its a free country and you should be able to kill yourself at any rate you choose, as long as your cold dead body is not blocking my driveway.”
– Scott Adams
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Tempe Art Fair artist

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And, my favorite prayer of the year:

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thanks tO my sister Julie fOr this!

Thank yOu, 2013, fOr all the lessOns, lOve, tears and laughter. I am a better persOn fOr having experienced all of it. SO I bid yOu farewell, trusting I will take with me whatever I may need fOr the cOming year.

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My next blog post will be welcoming the new year by choosing my “word of the year”. It is a great practice of looking forward and setting a positive intention for the coming year. What will your word be?

Until then,

Be Gentle, Be Brave, Be True

lOve, vickiO

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my hOney and me

dOesn’t travel well

As I slowly improved over the summer months, my husband and I set our sights on a 2 1/2 week driving trip to Minnesota in September. We even had a few “practice” trips to make sure I could handle the car ride, and still be able to function when we arrived at our destination. Our generous friends offered up their cabins in Northern Arizona to us, so with three short trips under our belts, we were ready. Or so we thought…

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On September 1st, we packed up the car, which included John’s golf clubs, 4 of my clubs and a pair of golf shoes (ever the optimist), a cooler, some magazines, canvases, art supplies and many cute outfits for all the fun things we were going to do when we got there. Oh, I also had a Tempurpedic pillow and a full-size body pillow because my naps are still a must. It was like having a third person in the car, but it sure helped me get comfy enough to sleep. John would just shake his head every time I lugged the body pillow from the back seat to the front, but he knew a rested wife, was a happy wife.

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From Fountain Hills to Albuquerque, and on to Colorado Springs and Lincoln, NE, we drove. Well, John drove, and I rested. We chatted, took in the beautiful landscape, listened to great music and late in the afternoon would look for the next Hampton Inn to rest our heads. One of the highlights was coming across the incredible Russell’s Travel Center  in the middle of Northern New Mexico. Our gas tank was on empty and they had everything one might need on a trip across America. Seriously!

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We arrived in Woodbury, MN on September 4th, and moved into our dear friend Sharon’s beautiful and comfortable lower level. I was feeling tired, but after one of John’s delicious homemade dinners and a great nights sleep, I was ready to enjoy our friends and family on some beautiful Fall days in Minnesota.

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The next morning, Sharon and I headed out for our long awaited walk. It was longer and hotter than either of us had planned, but we are tough, right?! After a quick hello from my dear friend Karla, and a nice lunch, I headed down for a nap. Upon rising, my energy had fallen and my body, for WHATEVER reason, decided it needed 11 more days of rest! Day after day, I would awaken optimistic, and day after day, found myself with almost no energy.

ARGH! No gatherings, no lunches, no nice dinners out. No trips to the golf course, no Project Runway with Karla and the kids, no dinners with friends and family, and no more long walks. And all my cute outfits that had travelled 1,700 miles were left sadly hanging in the closet.

I became so shocked and numb that the whole time feels quite surreal. How embarrassing to be able to drive all the way from Arizona to Minnesota and not have enough energy to drive 30 minutes to Minneapolis or Hastings. How and why did this happen?

It has taken me this long to publish this post because I was really hoping to find the answers to the how and why. Not that I didn’t try, but those are the ever unanswerable questions when it comes to recovering from Valley Fever. And those are the questions that truly drive me crazy.

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So, once again, I am forced to practice letting go. (Can you say slow learner?)

And, once again, I am forced to listen to my body ever so carefully.

And, once again, I am forced to slow down and look inward.

And, once again, I am encouraged to look for what is right in my life. And there is SO much right!

And, once again, I am strongly encouraged to listen to that still, small, wise voice within.

And it all helps me to, once again, gently settle into and accept how life is. (Let gO Or be dragged, Sweetie!)

So on day 11, John packed up the car and we headed back to Arizona. No stop in the Colorado mountains,  the Utah canyon lands, or Kansas City. Just the quickest way home – Wichita to Albuquerque to Fountain Hills.

Conclusions:

> Moving back to the Midwest will not cure my Valley Fever (sorry Mom).

> Planning ahead is for the birds (just so you know, the Canadian geese have safely arrived in Arizona for the winter).

> And, as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t travel well.

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Upon arriving home, we cancelled our trip to Oregon for John’s nieces wedding (so sad), enjoyed being greeted by the first ever bloom on our San Pedro cactus, and settled back into our beautiful Arizona home. I’m once again slowly rebuilding my physical body, resetting my expectations and learning new ways to care for myself. I even committed to a 10-day Sugar Detox with Lacy Young which began October 1st. The experience so far has been enlightening, empowering and freeing.

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I will continue to embrace life the best way I know how, and trust myself to make the healthiest and most fulfilling choices for myself. I am worth it, and so are yOu!

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enjOy this wOnderful change Of seasOn, treat yOurself kindly, and celebrate all the lOve in yOur life!

thank yOu sO much fOr listening : )

much lOve,

vickiO

sOul wOrk

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

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On August 6, 2013, I began a 6-week online e-course titled Soul Restoration, offered by Brave Girls Club . The two beautiful and amazing sisters, Melody Ross and Kathy Wilkins, who founded the club, are on a mission to encourage, connect and remind all of us to live big, brave beautiful lives. It is way worth it to check them out!

As I continue to s-l-O-w-l-y recover from Valley Fever, I am gaining a new perspective on what the last year-a-half has taught me. As of today, among other things, I have learned:

  • hOw to let go (well, at least to let go sooner than I normally would)
can't get much clearer than that!

can’t get much clearer than that!

  • the true meaning of the wOrds “self-care”

  • slOwing dOwn and getting quiet really dOes prOvide the space necessary to hear the wisdOm Of yOur sOul

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  •  tO knOw in my bOnes that I am enOugh

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  • that the universe has really been talking to me thru my art

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  • and, tO trust myself and knOw that I am nOt alOne.

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The Other thing that this dOwn time has taught me, is that my life is preciOus. And that it is sOlely my respOnsibility tO be living the life of my dreams. nO One else knOws what is in the depths of my sOul, and if I’m nOt dedicated tO the expressiOn Of my life, then it’s all On me.  I am sOlely respOnsible for the care of my life and sOul. A bit daunting, yes, but quite exciting, tOO!

I’ve alsO learned that I get tO have help, but I am the Only One that can champiOn “the herO in my sOul” and take that mOst impOrtant step tOwards my heart, and not away frOm it.

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So frOm here On Out (yes, I mean the BIG Out!), I am fully committed tO the full expressiOn Of my life. This may be my Only shOt, and time is shOrt. sO whether I’m “making gOOd art”, hanging with my husband, cOnnecting with family, having cOffee with friends, napping : ), sitting in meditatiOn, or enjOying a beautiful gOlf cOurse, I will bring my whOle heart and sOul with me. dOn’t yOu think it’s abOut time?

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I am grateful to the wisdom of Valley Fever, the love of my family and friends, my health care team, and all the Brave Girls out there walking this “road-less-traveled”. That is what makes this all possible and worthwhile.

turn tOwards yOur heart, find yOur truth, knOw you are wOrth it!

lOve, vickiO

P.S. One mOre thank yOu tO my friends at Starbucks!

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Thank you Nolen, Caitlin, and the rest of the wonderful staff at Starbucks in Fountain Hills Arizona! And Snoopy!

fOllOw yOur art, yOur heart, and yOur therapist’s advice

If your doctor ever offers you Physical Therapy, say YES, YES, YES! And if you are recovering from Valley Fever, ask your doctor for a prescription for PT!  I’m not saying it will absolutely help, but there is a whole lot more being offered than just a few suggested exercises. Over the past 6 weeks, my wonderful physical therapist, Barbara, has supported not only my physical being, but my emotional and mental being as well. I had no idea how skilled, creative, funny, caring and wise she would be. I hope she never doubts the difference she is making in the world!

thank yOu, Barbara!

thank yOu, Barbara!

She has even inspired some new artwork…

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nO wiser wOrds have ever been spOken

Ever so slowly, I am improving. It has taken 6 weeks (and 15 months!), but I am now able to drive myself to my PT appointments, take a short trip Up North (Arizona), and even attend a Diamondback baseball game with my husband. He had the hotdog and beer, and I ate all three chicken tacos!

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DBacks wOn with a walk-Off hOmer in the bOttOm of the ninth!

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beautiful pOnderOsa pines in shOw lOw, az

My 2-hour afternoon naps are still very important, as is staying hydrated and eating good food. Just this morning I walked into the kitchen and found four drinking glasses lined up on the counter. I knew they had not been there when I had gone to bed, so I asked my husband if he knew what was going on. He said, “I have a new plan for you!” I smiled, and asked what it was. He said that was the number of glasses of water I needed to drink each day. Bless his heart! Funny thing – my acupuncturist told me today that I needed to drink 76 ounces of water each day. Okay, Universe, I hear you!

Another milestone for me is being able to walk all the way around Fountain Lake – 1.25 miles! Unfortunately, because of the heat, I have to do it at 5am! It is amazing how many friendly people are out at that hour. Here are a few things that made me smile this morning:

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Taking my walk not only helps my physical heart, but my emotional heart as well. So does painting, and smiling at my husband, and saying the truth, and only saying yes when I really mean it. My heart will lead me to my best pOssible life. I just have to remember to listen : )

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and yOur heart!

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Following my (he)art, on many days, is a lot easier said than done. I continue to learn (many days kicking and screaming) that the only person I can save is myself. It is a very hard lesson for this “very good co-dependent”. But everyday I commit to myself to be as healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually as possible.  And just like my art, it is prettier on some days than others.

I will leave you with a few more images that inspired me today – one from Arizona, and one from Minnesota, via my friend Frank Bell.

guardian Of the desert

guardian Of the desert

mama lOOn and her chicks

mama lOOn and her chicks

And one more important reminder from Barbara:

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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow.

Learn as if you were to live forever”

Mahatma Gandhi

chOOse healing thOughts, embrace your feelings, tell the truth

lOve, vickiO

hOly rOadrunner, Batman, it IS valley fever!

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I have never been so happy to be diagnosed with something in my life! On Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 my husband and I went to my appointment with the resident Valley Fever guru, Dr. Galgiani. He is the renowned VF expert in the country, and was my last hope for sanity. It probably was a good thing he didn’t realize how much was riding on this visit.

Dr. John Galgiani was kind, funny, thoughtful and extremely knowledgable. He was interested in hearing my story, asked questions and was genuinely interested in helping me. When he said, “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard the same things from my Valley Fever patients”, I just about burst into tears with relief!

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hOly cactus blOssOm, Batman,

I really dO have Valley Fever!

Like I said, I’ve never been so happy to be diagnosed with an untreatable disease in my life! Gone forever are the crazy thoughts and questions I’ve had rolling around in my head for the last 14 months. Gone are the sleepless nights wondering why I can’t do any normal activities or even just talk on the phone. Gone are the worries about what it is that I do have, and whether I will ever get well.

I was relieved when Dr. Galgiani said I fit into one of the classic Valley Fever profiles – a very healthy, active person, with all the VF symptoms (cough, night sweats, headaches and fatigue) and fatigue being the worst lingering symptom. They don’t know why very active people get the long drawn-out version, but he has seen it many times. He confirmed that the medication doesn’t really help in cases like mine, and that here is not one part of my story that doesn’t fit for Valley Fever.

I am extremely relieved and happy to finally have a confirmation of what I have “known” all along.  There are so few doctors who really know this disease, so I’m extremely grateful to be a patient of Dr. Galgiani’s. He has dedicated his career to studying, researching and treating Valley Fever in the hardest hit areas in the US.  He was clearly excited to be working on it and making a difference for people who are suffering with it. Thank you, Dr. G!!

He said he has no treatment for the disease itself, but gave me a prescription for a months worth of physical therapy to slowly begin reconditioning my body. Love this! He said to let go of all the figuring out and trying things, and just let them set up a plan that fits me and my condition. I feel very supported and heard. I will go back to see him in 6 weeks – he actually wants to know how I am doing. How cool is that?! (The last 3 doctors told me to come back in 6 months or a year.) Again, thank you, Batman!

lOvely wOrds frOm my sister...

lOvely wOrds frOm my sister…

Dr. Galgiani is so sure I have Valley Fever that he asked if I would be willing to do an interview for one of the local TV stations last Monday. We were having terrible dust storms that day, and Valley Fever is always a topic of concern on those days. I readily agreed to the interview and loved being a part of educating and voicing the realities of the disease. Below is a link to the interview if you want to take a look.

http://www.azfamily.com/news/High-winds-stir-up-health-concerns-202057681.html

Right now, this is my favorite t-shirt. I know the keep calm sayings are a bit overused, but I love The Beatles and wearing it makes me smile. So, rOck On, dear friends, rOck On!

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I would love this on a t-shirt, too! But the truth is, it is Dr. Galgiani who needs this t-shirt. He really IS Batman!

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The real life Batman……

Dr. John Galgiani - He is now on my team! Yay!

Dr. John Galgiani – He is now on my team! Yay!

I think I could save the world in these shoes! Don’t you?!

hOly high heels, Batman!

hOly high heels, Batman!

Okay, okay, I will stop myself from carrying this too far. It’s just that as a kid I loved Batman and Robin, and all their corny jokes and funny sayings. But most of all I loved them because they were out there battling evil and winning. I, too, want to be a force for good in the world and plan on continuing to fight for the underdog (oh, I loved Underdog, too).

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Here is my final thought on Batman for the day. Maybe we are all being called to connect to our own inner super hero. The part of us that wants to speak up and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. I think it is really trying to encourage us all to be super heroes in our own lives. Maybe there is a Batman, or Batwoman, inside all of us. Claim your inner super hero, and go out and change your special corner of the world for the better today.

Be kind. Love gently. Live large.

Yay for the real life super heroes!

lOve, vickiO

P.S. Here are a couple of very helpful links if you suspect you have Valley Fever and are looking for more information.

Valley Fever Center of Excellence

Tutorial for Primary Care Professionals – select this option on the page displayed for a PDF file that you can print and give to your doctors to receive the best care possible.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

– Pablo Picasso